Friday, 29 January 2016

Niewinni Czarodzieje/Innocent Sorcerers

"Faith, hope and ...?"
When last we discussed Polish cinema, it was decided that it would come in handy should you find yourself stuck in a house party attended by graduate students of philosophy. If you recall, you have found yourself in this plight because you expect your crush object to turn up. In fact, he may have suggested the party, and as you sit on the sofa with a glass of white wine, you are contemplating his exact words, "Hey, are you going to that party the philosophy students are having?" Did he or did he not say explicitly that he was coming? Hmm.

At any rate, there you are, and thank goodness you decided to go for the full Reads-Sartre-in-a-Hipster-Café look unlike the actual Sartre expert by the fridge who looks incredibly dumpy in her lycra mini skirt. In the right light, you might actually look a little bit like Audrey Hepburn. So that's something.

But what is this? A young man with dark curly hair has turned to you and said, "So what do you think of Deleuze?"

You: I don't think anything of Deleuze. I'm more of a Polish cinema gal. (Seriously hope Deleuze did not write about Polish cinema.*)

Young man: Oh, are you Polish?

You: No. Are you French?

Young man: Point taken. So are you into Polanski or what?

You: Well, it's probably controversial to say so, but I don't consider Polanski's later work Polish cinema, you know? I mean, he's very American.

American Republican-voting Department Outlier in blazer and tie: So what's wrong with that?

Young man: Um, excuse me, we are taking about Cinema. So what would be a good film for a neophyte to see? (To Department Outlier) That means a beginner.

Outlier: Eff you, Gutenheimer, I know what a neophyte is. (Stomps off to the kitchen.)

You: I highly recommend Niewinni Czarodzieje.

Gutenheimer: Nee-eh-veennee charo-whatsit?

You: Cha-rod-jay-eh. Otherwise known as Innocent Sorcerers. It has an amazing late-50s cool. Actually, it may have invented late-50s cool. It has a fantastic jazz soundtrack and amazing visuals. The clothes are great; I wish guys still dressed like that. And there are all kinds of self-referential jokes that actually seem fresh and new, which they probably were in 1959.

Gutenheimer: Sounds good. Like what?

You: Well, it begins with a young woman in a Dior New Look-style skirt and a picture hat walking along a Warsaw street, past a whole bunch of billboards advertising the film Niewinni Czarodzieje. And later a character turns on a radio, and a presenter announces that the next piece is from the film Niewinni Czarodzieje. Later a drunk guy on a spree with his friends starts philosophizing that they are the niewinni czarodzieje  It works. It's a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, you know? Which is pretty awesome for a country just three years out of the Stalinist terror.

Gutenheiemer: Fresh air, new freedom?

You: It definitely gives that impression although both the Catholic Church in Poland and the Communist Party threw fits over its supposed cynicism and frivolity.  I like how the composer--Krzystof Komeda--basically just plays himself in the film. He's in the protagonist's band. Like Komeda in real life, the hero Bazyli is a doctor by day--he works at a boxing gym--and a jazz man by night. Well, Bazyli so-called. I think it's just a fake name he gives to pick-ups.

Gutenheimer:  There are pick-ups?

You: Yeah, that's another reason why the Church and the Commies were upset. It's a bit bizarre. The film is full of girls in 1950s clothes acting more like it's the 1960s and then crying, etc.

Gutenheimer: Maybe the 1950s were more like the 1960s than we think.

You: Probably. The 1960s didn't come out of nowhere. Look at the beatniks. Personally I blame the professors more than the students, you know?

Gutenheimer: What you you mean, blame? The Sixties were fabulous! Free love, no AIDS, cheap grass, Greenwich Village, the White Album, Rochdale College...

You: Er. Um. (Think really hard)  ... Domestic terrorism, total sexual exploitation of women ...

Gutenheimer (trumped by feminism): Well, I grant you.

You:  Which is another cool thing about Innocent Sorcerers. The drama of the story comes from a war of wits between Bazyli and Pelagia, a girl he tries to pick up for his friend Edmund. Pelagia first appears to be an affronted Catholic girl, and then a good-time girl l like Bazyli's usual conquests, but it begins to look like she's something else entirely. In fact, for a film that is supposed to be so cynical, it does suggest that there can be a cure for the biggest problem of youth.

Your Crush Object (having arrived and has been standing, unnoticed, beside you ): Unemployment?

You (blushing faintly and trying not to smile too widely):  No. Boredom.


Curious point: The young, not yet messed up, Roman Polanski is an actor in this film.

Catholic culture score: Komeda remembers catechetical basics.

*Answer: Glancingly. Deleuze mentioned just one film: Bilans kwartalny by Zanussi. You're safe.


  1. I love your dialogue - it's always so witty and charming! I would love to be a fly on the wall at that party.

    A longtime married lurker on Seraphic Singles

  2. Can you guess that I have been to MANY parties featuring graduate students of philosophy?

  3. This is comic gold.

    Rachel, who is still trying to learn Polish

  4. Thank you! And the next time I watch "Niewinni Czarodzieje", I will tape some paper over the subtitles!